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June 2011
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August 2011

Federal Judge Tosses Suit Opposing Obama Funding of Stem Cell Research

Published July 27, 2011 | Associated Press

A federal judge is throwing out a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's funding of embryonic stem cell research.

The lawsuit claimed the research violated a 1996 law that prohibits taxpayer financing for work that harms an embryo. But the Obama administration policy allows research on embryos that were culled long ago through private funding.

Full story.

Rare Coupling of Magnetic and Electric Properties in a Single Material

New multiferroic mechanism could lead to next-generation memory and sensing devices

UPTON, NY — Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have observed a new way that magnetic and electric properties — which have a long history of ignoring and counteracting each other — can coexist in a special class of metals. These materials, known as multiferroics, could serve as the basis for the next generation of faster and energy-efficient logic, memory, and sensing technology.

The researchers, who worked with colleagues at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research in Germany, published their findings online in Physical Review Letters on July 25, 2011.

Ferromagnets are materials that display a permanent magnetic moment, or magnetic direction, similar to how a compass needle always points north. They assist in a variety of daily tasks, from sticking a reminder to the fridge door to storing information on a computer’s hard drive. Ferroelectrics are materials that display a permanent electric polarization — a set direction of charge — and respond to the application of an electric field by switching this direction. They are commonly used in applications like sonar, medical imaging, and sensors.

“In principle, the coupling of an ordered magnetic material with an ordered electric material could lead to very useful devices,” said Brookhaven physicist Stuart Wilkins, one of the paper’s authors. “For instance, one could imagine a device in which information is written by application of an electric field and read by detecting its magnetic state. This would make a faster and much more energy-efficient data storage device than is available today.”

But multiferroics — magnetic materials with north and south poles that can be reversed with an electric field — are rare in nature. Ferroelectricity and magnetism tend to be mutually exclusive and interact weakly with each other when they coexist.

Full story.

UK scientists call for new agency to oversee experiments mixing human and animal cells

By Associated Press

LONDON — British scientists say a new expert body should be formed to regulate experiments mixing animal and human DNA to make sure no medical or ethical boundaries are crossed.

In a report issued on Friday, scientists at the nation’s Academy of Medical Sciences said a government organization is needed to advise whether certain tests on animals that use human DNA should be pursued.

Full story.

Scientists Untangle Tough Quantum Computing Knot

By Richard Adhikari


New research may provide the answers to overcoming one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of the development of quantum computing: quantum decoherence. The experiment used molecular magnets, which suppress extrinsic decoherence. Extrinsic decoherence was reduced to the point where it was no longer observable, said USC's Susumu Takahashi.

A team of scientists has achieved what might prove to be a breakthrough in quantum computing.

The group has managed to partially suppress quantum decoherence, one of the major obstacles to quantum computing, by using crystalline molecular magnets.

Decoherence, which is a much-debated topic, is believed to be the loss of information from a system into the environment that fixes a system into one state.

By doing so, decoherence negates quantum states, which exist because of the entanglement of multiple electrons and molecules.

Think of it this way: A fishing net, where all the strands are linked to each other by knots, is like a quantum state. Separating out a strand by cutting the knots binding it to other strands is what happens when decoherence sets in.

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Physicists at Fermilab Discover New Subatomic Particle

High-speed collisions at a giant atom smasher have produced what physicists say is a new particle, a heavier relative of the familiar neutron.

The particle is called the neutral Xi-sub-b. When it's formed in the Fermilab Tevatron particle accelerator in Batavia, Ill., the neutral Xi-sub-b lasts just a mere instant before decaying into lighter particles. Scientists at Fermilab uncover these ephemeral particles by racing particles around a 4-mile (6.3 km) ring at near light speed. When the particles collide, the outpouring of energy disintegrates them into other particles.

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Researchers' quest for gold

Scientists study element as nanoparticle, effect on female reproductive tract

By Kelly Hogan of the Journal Sentinel

July 18, 2011

For University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee researchers studying the toxicity of gold nanoparticles - a minuscule material with potentially big biomedical applications - the road to a new medical advance may or may not be paved with gold.

These ultrafine metallic particles, which are 1/80,000th the diameter of a human hair, hold great promise for treating diseases as diverse as cancer, diabetes or AIDS, but scientists must prove that new ways to treat disease will do no harm.

Reinhold Hutz, a professor of biological sciences at UWM, and graduate student Jeremy Larson are investigating whether gold nanoparticles target and disrupt the female reproductive tract - the only research of its kind in the United States.

Gold nanoparticles range in size from 1 to 100 nanometers; a nanometer is about one-billionth the size of a yardstick. Noting the remarkable scale of nanoparticles, Larson put the particles in perspective: "If a nanoparticle were the size of a football, a virus would be the size of a person."

What distinguishes nanoparticles from particles of other sizes is their unique physical and chemical properties. The compatibility of other biological molecules with gold nanoparticles, for example, renders them prime candidates for tissue-specific drug delivery.

Full story.

Surgeons carry out first synthetic windpipe transplant

By Michelle Roberts

Health reporter, BBC News, in Stockholm

Surgeons in Sweden have carried out the world's first synthetic organ transplant.

Scientists in London created an artificial windpipe which was then coated in stem cells from the patient.

Crucially, the technique does not need a donor, and there is no risk of the organ being rejected. The surgeons stress a windpipe can also be made within days.

The 36-year-old cancer patient is doing well a month after the operation.

Professor Paolo Macchiarini from Spain led the pioneering surgery, which took place at the Karolinska University Hospital.

In an interview with the BBC, he said he now hopes to use the technique to treat a nine-month-old child in Korea who was born with a malformed windpipe or trachea.

Professor Macchiarini already has 10 other windpipe transplants under his belt - most notably the world's first tissue-engineered tracheal transplant in 2008 on 30-year-old Spanish woman Claudia Costillo - but all required a donor.

Full story.